Columbia, SC was one of the best places to experience America's first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918. At Carolina, we celebrated our community's front-row seat with a vast series of celestial exhibitions, expert discussions and scientific research.
At 2:41 p.m. on Aug. 21, the Columbia, SC area enjoyed a front-row seat to history
with a 100 percent total eclipse viewing period of two minutes and 36 seconds. While
partial eclipses are more common, August's total solar eclipse was a remarkable and
rare event. In the days leading up to the great event and on the day of the eclipse,
our campus teemed with students, visitors and guests. Not only did our visitors enjoy
a view in the path of totality, they also gained insightful perspective from our university
experts including astrophysicists, researchers, naturalists and artists.
A Wondrous Learning Experience
The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 was a watershed moment for Carolina, Columbia and the United States. It was the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979, and the first transcontinental total solar eclipse, in which the eclipse’s path goes coast to coast, in 99 years.
For April Hiscox, associate professor in the Department of Geography, the eclipse enhanced her research of the Earth's near atmosphere, the layer that extends from earth’s surface to about a half-mile high. For physics and astronomy professor Timir Datta, it was a moment for recreating a famous 1919 experiment that helped confirm Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. And for Adam Hartstone-Rose, associate professor in the School of Medicine and adjunct scientist at Riverbanks Zoo, it was an opportunity to study odd animal behavior.
Studio art professor and researcher Chris Robinson connected art and science through his unique Southern Lights laser installation, which debuted on Sat., Aug. 19. The large-scale installation, which will span the Congaree River near the Blossom Street Bridge, is planned for future long-term display so more visitors can enjoy the unique laser-beam experience.
An Epic Event Schedule
Being home to the longest period of total eclipse on the East Coast was significant.
That's why, throughout the city, you could enjoy a galaxy of eclipse-related events
in the days leading up to the main event. The University of South Carolina Columbia
Campus hosted a number of free, public programs beginning on Aug. 17.
Thursday, August 17 — Monday, August 21
Visitors to the Hollings Library on the University of South Carolina Columbia Campus enjoyed the dazzling Historical Astronomy Highlights Exhibition. Selected books, manuscripts and documents from The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy were displayed in the Irvin Department Gallery, which was open to the public from Thurs., Aug. 17 through Mon., Aug. 21.
On Fri., Aug. 18, solar physicist Dr. Sarbani Basu, Department of Astronomy Chair at Yale University, discussed the history of solar eclipses and what humankind has learned from them in a public lecture.
Studio art professor and researcher Chris Robinson's Southern Lights laser installation debuted on Sat., Aug. 19. The long-term art installation is planned for future display over the Congaree River near the Blossom Street Bridge.
On Sun., Aug. 20, visitors to campus took part in a series of free, 30-minute talks by USC faculty and visiting scholars Ramesh Kapoor, Gerardo Vazquez, James Overduin and Kristin Simunac.
Held at Swearingen Engineering Center, the series hosted experts who discussed the role of eclipses in science and society, and how eclipses have factored in myths and legends throughout history.
Visitors to Spirit Communications Park on eclipse day were invited to explore the Degrees of Health with UofSC at the iMAGINE STEM Festival. This full day of fun included interactive STEM exhibits (science, technology, engineering and math) from UofSC and other organizations. Tickets also included the 1:05 p.m. Columbia Fireflies vs. Rome Braves game and Total Eclipse of the Park.
For those who preferred to beat the heat and watch the eclipse inside, we offered live stream viewing of NASA TV's Eclipse Megacast in several areas across the Columbia Campus.
A variety of experts visited locations across campus to share how eclipses are woven into our science, culture, history and art. Allison Marsh, Steven Rodney, Michael Weisenburg, Scott White, Varsha Kulkarni, Nate Carnes and Zhenlong Li each hosted 20-minute public discussions leading up to the eclipse.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy operated 10 outdoor and 5 indoor viewing stations across campus with telescopes, activities and/or NASA live video streams. Viewers could choose their eclipse experience with access to expert discussions and telescopic technology or fun activities such as disc golf and family-friendly crafts.
Near McKissick Museum, Curator of Natural History Christian Cicimurri shared solar eclipse demonstrations and educational presentations.
USC’s Naturalist-in-Residence Rudy Mancke visited viewers on the historic Horseshoe to share the nature of the solar eclipse, leading up to the 2.5 minutes of totality beginning at 2:41 pm.
After the sun fully re-emerged, the university hosted an Eclipse Reception for rising high school seniors and upcoming graduate students.
In the late afternoon, the Darla Moore School of Business hosted a free, public talk by Dr. Craig Roberts, a distinguished professor and senior physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, one of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories for science and engineering research. In his "Laying the God Particle to Rest" discussion, Dr. Roberts discussed Higgs Boson and why it cannot be used to identify the source of more than 98 percent of the universe’s visible mass.
The big day finally came to a close at Williams Brice Stadium where visitors could enjoy the university's gridiron stars. An open practice of the 2017 Gamecock football team was the perfect ending to a phenomenal day.